"How do I go about landing a Sponsorship?"
During the recent self isolation and social distancing implemented during the worldwide pandemic, I was frequently asked by young athletes struggling to figure out what to do with their sport; "How do I go about getting Sponsorship?"
Before I begin, let me start by saying that 8 years ago I asked my current business partner, Trish McGeer, that very same question!! So, here is what I have learned and what I can pass on to those athletes who ask the same question every day.
The athlete who contacted me was a struggling young gymnast who claimed her Federation does not allow athletes to solicit their own sponsors if they wish to compete under the Federations umbrella. She feared not being able to continue in the sport due to this road block, as her family is struggling to afford the high costs of the sport. This problem is not uncommon from what I've seen and experienced. I am not here to argue whether or not the Federation should allow or not, but to simply discuss the simple route to gaining sponsors to help fund your dream. I will tackle that problem later, but first a bit of background. My follower have seen our social media grow from literally 0 to now roughly over 250,000 worldwide in just under four years. They have seen me try many different tactics to help create a functioning business in an industry that has been quite stagnant for some time. Do not lose hope. It can be done, but you have to be creative and unique and above everything else -- STAND OUT!! Damien Walters is a well known parkour athlete and stuntman who was one of the first to make parkour videos mixed with stunts. Flipping over cars, Russian Swing over his house and even trampoline off cranes with me in Austria. I spoke to Damien and he acknowledges that his break came because he was the first. This is our first major point. If you are doing something someone else has done then it means you are simply repeating someone else’s hard work. The simple truth is that if someone else has done it and you are copying them exactly then you are not going to get very far. You must come up with something unique and different that the world has not seen. It does not have to be a difficult skill either. Most think that the only way to stand out is to be better skill-wise. This is a fallacy. It is of course one way to stand out and most who you call famous are extremely good at what they do but there is more to it. Damien may not have been best tumbler in the world, nor was he the “best” parkour or freeman athlete doing the most insane tricks. His were stylish and cool and had character that others did not. Different locations with different atmospheres and a different “spin” on a trick that may have been done before. He has never claimed to be the best, but he was unique and still is today with always new accolades. Skills will come and go. There will be always someone faster, stronger and with more courage. It is extremely foolish to create an entire business around being the “next strongest guy”, because as soon as you get recognition, the guy or girl who will beat you has already been born and you will have a short shelf life. Mohammed Ali, the famous boxer, was an amazing athlete as well but that is not why he is remembered above the rest. He was remembered because he was an arrogant loud mouth. In most interviews he was talking trash or calling out opponents and in many cases he still won. If he had not won, he would look like an idiot. But many other fights won many titles as well and his attitude brought him to the forefront. Before his death from Parkinson’s he traveled the world inspiring those from his legacy and also fought for black rights. His skill was necessary but there was more to the story. Make your image stand for something, something that is not currently being addressed that affects the masses. Let’s take me for example. I got a smart boost from my compilation videos on super tramp. That was my beginning. It was enough to instantly rocket me to millions of views of course but it still was my beginning. Yes, others had done skills on a super tramp but never made a multi video compilation series about it. Not that it was a great feat of media genius but it was enough to get people talking about my existence in the world. From there I met Trish who taught me real marketing. I got lucky with the fact the compilations did somewhat well in an industry where these big tricks just were not publicized. I was the first to really push that limit with many skills done from 5 - 7 years ago still being unmatched by today's current prime athletes. But Trish taught me that I needed to do more then just throw bigger tricks for the reason I expressed previously. I needed to create an image and fight for a movement that I truly believed in that I could mix with my trampoline skills. I realized that I loved to watch new things and get inspired to try new things. My coach would bring in a tv into training and have us watch gymnastics world championships when I was 10 - 13. We would get so motivated to try new things that we had the best training after with the most fun and I will always remember that. I noticed that no one really promoted the sport and created a platform for inspiration. I was going to do that. So I began to start starting other peoples videos. I had my own of course but like anything you can only do a quint a few times before it’s old news. But our social platforms morphed into more of a news channel discussing the comings and goings of the industry. What new cool trick was being done in what country. What new creative drill can you try with your athletes? What fun “Junk Trick” can you do with your kids during fun time? Soon people started doing the same thing and seeing how it catapulted our social media following from 0 to about 50,000 in half a year. By the next year we were close to 100,000. Do you not see? The reason people recognize our brand is because we are filling a need. Our need is motivation. Other profiles are more related to news about specific countries or about rules and regulations which we purposefully stay away from unless it is quite a real juice news line.
GRT as a brand is now attracting sponsors and investors for different projects that we are doing.a sponsor it is actually very simple, it just takes time to build the platform. Sponsors want to know that their brand will get a boost in ratings or visibility by being associated with a particular athlete or company. Visibility is the biggest thing for sponsors generally speaking. Trish says that “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. This is an old saying that still holds true today. Of course there are things you do not want to have your brand associated with but the general idea is true. If people are talking about your brand it is still better than not at all even if it is sometimes negative. Let’s look at tennis. Tennis was a lot like gymnastics and trampoline. Then John McEnroe comes along swearing and yelling at the refs and causing quite a negative scene… as many thought… but then… people started watching because they wanted to know what was going to happen. Happy Gilmore was a movie with Adam Sandler that took what McEnroe did in tennis and applied it to golf with the same concept. By creating a scene the numbers increased and the money increased and the sport took off. I noticed that in the industry everyone was very concerned with sounding very professional and never sticking their foot out. I was naturally a loud mouth kind of guy and got into a lot of trouble because of it, with Team Canada and even school and work. I told everyone what I thought and had a very relaxed filter as you may say. I had a decision when creating my marketing plan. Did I need to conform to the “In The Box Thinking” I was pushed to believe or do I go the McEnroe route and just start causing havoc? Well life tells us that too much of anything is bad so it is best to go somewhere in the middle. This is why I chose posts that I do that I know will annoy some but I have a very good reason for posting everything I chose to post. It is not just to annoy people, that is short sighted. I post what I love to watch and see and that is it. Simple isn’t it. The reality is that acrobatics has not dealt with many athletes who don’t just simply follow rules. I'll give you one small funny example. I had a coach who had many complain behind their back but never to their face. I asked why no one would express themselves to this coach and the responses I got were in my mind “insane”. As soon as I made a hint that I would just ask the coach to address the concerns the athletes brought up in private they all got very upset telling me not to say anything. How do you fix something if you do not address it? You see, sponsorship is all about finding your path, your rhythm and working with it. If you do what you are told, you will not get sponsors in a way because if you are doing exactly what you are told then what you are doing has been done before and that immediately turns off a sponsor. In sports like BMX and skateboarding where sponsorship is not limited, the same principals apply even though those who do not stand out may still get some sponsorship. The ones that really stand out however are the ones who make a difference. I was speaking with Travis Pastrana and he was telling me the story about how he and Edgar helped really create freestyle motocross. He is the most famous motocross athlete because he created the new trend, not because he followed orders. He wanted something more and had his own idea after he stopped racing and struggled for years as people fought him and told him he was destroying the sport. But now look at freestyle motocross. A huge success. Ok one last example. Devin SuperTramp is a famous videographer who started by filming wedding videos and wanted to stop using the same old boring tripod as everyone else was using. He wanted it to be more like action shots to bring more life to the shot. He broke all the traditional rules to then create #teamsupertramp what it is today. The lesson to be learned through all these examples is that if you want to get sponsors you have to have a unique selling point. It can be a different style of shooting film, a unique inspirational social platform that never existed or a whole new sport that everyone thought was bad. Find your strength and what makes you unique. Make your entire social media based around it somehow trying to capitalize on it in different ways and stick to your beliefs. Many said I would fail. My family, friends, coaches, fellow athletes and many others. But I knew The 100 year long goal that I had set out in front of my self was worth fighting tooth and nail for. I knew there was a problem and I knew I would fix it. I can’t tell you what problem I am fixing at this point but the facts remain that unless you stand out do not waste your time looking for sponsors or investors. Sure you can get some local small businesses to cover some minor costs but a real sponsor that will pour thousands into and offer you new opportunities won’t come along unless they think you are the next big thing. You can read millions of articles that talk about pitches and creative ideas for approaching sponsors but it is not that complicated. I have barged into rooms full of people in very reputable business and pitched my idea to anyone who would listen. It is not really how you do it, it is the personality you have. Are you different? If you go in sounding like every other sponsorship contestant then you will get forgotten about. It is quite simple. You have to have them questioning who you are and what your full story is. Are you smart? If you can’t think quick and articulate quick funny jokes and quick come backs and think on the spot then the sponsors know you are not that smart. Not to say being witty is the be all and end all of being smart but speaking to someone who is quick thinking is very important. Sounding dumb is not going to help at all because then they think you think slow. Are you to the point? Do not drone on and on about how awesome you are. they assume you have a following and have a few gold medals from various competitions. Do not waste your time discussing your accolades, just briefly mention a few in the passing and tell them to email you for the full list. Focus more on the unique sell of what you are doing NOW that is so revolutionary that the sponsor thinks “Wow I can’t miss this opportunity”. Are you able to show a strong resume? If you do not have previous show experience, competition experience, a good following on social media good luck. You won’t get anything. Now, if your idea that you need a sponsor for, is soooooooo amazing then you can get away with it but prepare to get taken advantage of. They will sound all nice and say how great it is to partner with you but they will make sure they do not have to give you more then they absolutely need to. Do not approach sponsors unless you have some measure of success and you are simply looking for the NEXT STEP with their help. BE UNIQUE! Do not worry so much about what everyone else is doing. Create your own style and own personality, online and in public and show it works and then you will see sponsors approach you. I piss off many people but also have many love what I do. Remember fans only like posts online that reflect what they internally like. Do not base your image on the fans, base it on what you truly feel is right and then start gathering followers. If what you are fighting for is actually acceptable at some level you will eventually get there. Do not give up to early however.